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Mudgal committee findings keep IPL bosses on the edge

Dubai: The shadows of last year’s match-fixing scandal returns to haunt the Indian Premier League (IPL) as the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee report is set to be tabled before the Supreme Court on Monday. The timing of the report, two days before the auction for IPL VII in Bengaluru, has been keeping the top brass of Indian cricket board on the edge for a while.

Unlike the previous probe panel findings, which were submitted to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the three-member panel will be submitting their report to India’s apex court, which appointed the panel last October. Mudgal is expected to come down heavily on the BCCI and two franchises: Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals, who were in the eye of the storm when IPL VI was hit by the scandal. Three Royals players — international pacer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila — were banned by the BCCI last year for spot-fixing, while board president N. Srinivasan’s Super Kings face expulsion if betting charges against his son-in-law and team official Gurunath Meiyappan are proved to be correct.

According to unconfirmed media reports, the Mudgal report may establish the fact that Meiyappan was indeed the Team Principal of Super Kings, something that CSK have denied so far, and not a mere ‘enthusiast’. Meiyappan accepted to betting on IPL games in front of the magistrate, but didn’t depose before the commission, claiming that the matter is “subjudice.”

While the high-profile auction in Bengaluru on February 12 is not under direct threat with the BCCI having a right to appeal any damaging findings of the Committee, the IPL Governing Council has convened an emergency meeting the day after the auction to take stock of the situation — including taking a call on the venue for IPL VII.

The upcoming Indian general elections, whose dates are yet to be announced, is expected to clash with the IPL over April-May — forcing the BCCI to mull a number of countries as alternative venues like South Africa, the UAE and Bangladesh, along with India.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of IPL, Sunder Raman, also had been on a survey of at least three countries to keep a Plan B ready — the UAE, Singapore and Sri Lanka — though the teams are still in the dark even with the auction looming. “Yes, we have heard about the UAE being one of the frontrunners, but there is no confirmed news as yet. A clearer picture may emerge once the dates of the elections are announced,” an official of one of the franchises said.

Speaking to Gulf News from India, the new IPL commissioner Ranjib Biswal admitted: “We have identified a number of alternative venues should the event needs to be moved away from India, but I would not like to name them at this stage. We will take a call at the Governing Council meeting.”

When asked if the convenient location of the UAE, along with the vast population of Indian expatriates, gives it an edge, Biswal offered a “no comment”.

Incidentally, the second edition of the IPL, which was moved to South Africa in 2009 at a short notice — and under similar circumstances during the last elections — had proved to be a huge success in terms of spectator turnout and eyeballs.